Masters: the final leg

I thought it was about time I posted something relating to my Masters research project which I’ve been undertaking since 2006.  It’s been a long hard journey in the ensuing years, but I’m pleased to say that it’s beginning to come to a timely conclusion.  Since 2007 I’ve been going at it part-time, a result of having a freak-out and failing dramatically at balancing the whole work/study ratio in 2006 when I was cocky enough to believe I could handle it full-time.  The period from 2007 to the present hasn’t been that much easier, but at least I’ve been afforded a bit more breathing space by only having check in with my supervisors half as much, write/research half as much and be able to earn a living at the same time.

The research (to once again, refresh your memory) examines the act of listening within the context of sound art, and how a particular form of listening – what I have dubbed as focused listening – is inherent to specific forms of sound art.  The research is broken into three main sections:

1) A definition of what focused listening is, using composer James Tenney’s concept of focus and applying this model to both musical and artistic contexts.

2) A study of works by composer Alvin Lucier and sound artist Rolf Julius respectively, making particular note of their aesthetic and how focused listening is endorsed in their works.  A key work from each artists oeuvre is then analysed.

Alvin Lucier (image:
Alvin Lucier (image:
Rolf Julius - warum rot, warum schwarz (2007)
Rolf Julius - warum rot, warum schwarz (2007) (image:

3)  The works of Lucier and Julius inform the following section which documents three creative works by the author (i.e. me), two installation works (Infuser [2007/2009], Sumi [2007-2008]) and a concert film (190409 [2009]).  Although the installation works have more in common with Lucier and Julius with respect to aesthetic and focused listening, 190409 is an important inclusion as it encapsulates a significant part of my practice since mid-2008, which has been live performance and the examination of the role of listening in live sound art.

tristanlouthrobins_infuserInfuser (2007, revised 2009) – exhibited at ARIspace (October 2009)
tristanlouthrobins_Sumi2008Sumi (2007-2008) – home studio set-up (December 2008)
tristanlouthrobins_190409190409 (2009) – exhibited at the Adelaide Festival Centre (Moving Image Program, July-September 2009)

So far so good, so what’s left to do?

I’m currently writing a commentary chapter that will examine other areas of (particularly, performance based) sound art where focused listening is apparent, looking specifically at the work of Sachiko M(atsubura), Francisco Lopez and Philip Jeck.  This chapter is intended as a way of bringing things more into the 21st Century and speculating where listening in situated within these examples and the present tense.

Then it’s a conclusion, compiling the portfolio and we’re done and dusted come February 13th 2010That’s right, I’ve set a fixed date for submission!

So I’m pretty content at the moment, save for the fact that my final presentation at the University (a Music Technology Forum gig) last week was a listless, flaccid calamity.  If I have a resolution to make for the new year it will be to get my knack back for giving decent presentations.  It must have been apparent to the audience that this research project has been dragging on a little too long and I’m a bit over talking about it at length.

Now it’s time for tea, scones and some heavy duty tome-ing.


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